Spigot – Low sights, high hopes
Spigot’s two primary wheels — vocalist, songwriter, and group firestarter Nann Alleman, and harp player/serial good-guy David Lipkind — are sitting in a booth at Portland’s Laurelthirst pub, sucking down a series of Olympia stubbies. The pair stare intently at their recently-removed bottle caps, trying to sort out the picture-puzzles imprinted on them. Alleman sounds hers out phonetically, as though waiting for the meaning to drop out of the sky.
“I’ve got high hopes!” Nann eventually declares with certainty. “Can you top that?” posits David hopefully, having finally solved his cap’s particular riddle.
This episode neatly sums up the spirit of Spigot, a revolving four-piece bluegrass act surging forth on the strength of their 2002 debut disc Bait And Switch. The songs, written by Alleman, are deeply indebted to the legacy of old-time music, but vastly separate from the genre. Alleman wields a wicked sense of humor, a wry wisdom, and a seeming fixation with garden slugs. It’s an eccentric, excellent first effort, but most of the folks associated with the band aren’t exactly beginners.
“We’re all in our thirties and have been in bands for years,” says Lipkind. “We’re not looking to be millionaires, we just want to go on tour and play.”
The Portland music scene’s collaborative sense of community has meant that many of the members either currently split time with other projects or spent considerable time with other acts before finding a home in Spigot. “I left Mad Hattie two years ago,” Alleman says. “I took a six-month hiatus, and then started this project to do it the way I wanted to do it. Then I wooed David over to the dark side,” she laughs.
“I was a double agent for a while, in both bands. Sometimes even on the same night,” David adds diplomatically.
While this revolving-door approach sometimes has its downside — there’s a “home” and “away” lineup, featuring different rhythm sections — it’s clear that a sense of organized chaos is part of what fuels the band creatively. Bait And Switch, produced by Mike Coykendall (Old Joe Clarks), features fourteen guest players. It’s a credit to Alleman’s songwriting and vision that the record sounds none the worse for it; the patchwork quilt of musicians only adds to the rollicking sense of a good time being had by one and all.
Add to this Alleman’s unusual voice — something of a mesh between Maria Muldaur’s country blues and fellow Portland act Little Sue Weaver’s helium sing-song — and you have an act to be reckoned with.
Alleman and Lipkind once again return their attention to solving the mystery of their new caps. “Hang on to your hat,” she chuckles, and the throwaway part of a $1.50 investment in the evening’s entertainment summarizes the net effect of her contribution to the ongoing story of country music.